The distribution of roots in soil determines their acquisition of spatially varying resources. It may be altered by changing the response of roots to gravity. The aim of the study was to assess gravitropic set-point angles (GSAs) of maize (Zea mays L.) roots, their response to temperature and the feasibility to measure them in growth pouches. The GSAs of the primary, seminal and crown roots of a set of nine temperate inbred lines were measured. The lines were grown under controlled conditions in growth columns either at 15/13°C or 24/20°C (day/night) until the two-leaf stage (V2). The GSA was measured as the deviation of the initial 3 cm of root axis from the vertical zero. Low temperature resulted in a decrease in the GSAs of the crown roots by 10°, i.e. the roots oriented more vertically. The effect of the GSAs on the distribution of the roots was verified in wider columns using two extreme inbred lines. The proportion of roots in the upper 5 cm of the columns was 78% for the line S335 with the strongest tendency to horizontal root growth and only 39% for CM105 with almost vertical orientation of the roots. The differences in GSAs between these two genotypes were even more pronounced in growth pouches, thus proving the feasibility of this system for rapid screening. The results indicate that there is a huge genetic variability available to alter the growth direction of the seedling roots of maize. However, there was little effect of the temperature.
2010 Japanese Society for Root Research